Around 120,000 taxpayers who filed a Form 990-T will be hearing from the IRS in the coming weeks, telling them that the agency inadvertently exposed their information on its website. Exempted organizations, including charities and religious groups, with unrelated business income are required to file Form 990-T. As The Wall Street Journal notes, though, people with individual retirement accounts invested in assets that generate income, such as real estate, are also required to file the form. Filings by exempted organizations are supposed to be public, but those by private individuals aren't.
The agency said the issue stemmed from a human cording error last year when Form 990-T became available for electronic filing. As you can guess, the error led to the bundling of non-public data with public data, which were all made available for download. It wasn't until these past weeks that an employee discovered the issue and triggered an investigation that eventually led to the removal of the data that shouldn't have been public in the first place.
In its letter, the IRS said the leaked data included individual names and business contact information. Affected taxpayers' Social Security numbers, individual income details and other information that could impact their credit weren't made public. The Journal, which was able to download some of the data before it was removed, said it included people's income within their IRAs, as well.
Even though it has already removed the leaked data, the IRS is still reviewing the situation. The Treasury Department's Anna Canfield Roth also said that the agency "has instructed the IRS to conduct a prompt review of its practices to ensure necessary protections are in place to prevent unauthorized data disclosures."